That worked very well, until the night we stole Weaver's signs. Once we knew his system we just waited for the right opportunity. With Earl we knew we wouldn't have to wait too long. The first time he charged out of the dugout the four umpires on the field looked past him into the Oriole dugout at Coach Frank Robinson. Weaver started arguing, taking glances over his shoulder at Robinson. Finally Robinson gave him the "stop" sign, meaning the replay showed that the umpire had made a good call.
Weaver yelled his last few words, then turned around to return to his dugout—and ran right into 6'4" Bill Haller. He turned the other way and 6'1" Ken Kaiser was standing there, his arms crossed in front of his chest, smiling. Then he turned to face me. "Goin' somewhere, Earl?" I asked. "How come you're in such a hurry this time?" Once we had him trapped in an umpire sandwich, we really let him have it. We hounded him off the field. That marked the end of Earl Weaver's Instant Replay Signal System—for about two games.
The strangest protest in which I ever was involved was lodged by Weaver, although I don't think anything concerning me and Earl could really be considered strange. I believe I have made it clear that we don't get along: Once, for example, before a game, we were having a very calm discussion about managing. He tried to convince me that the most a manager can do is try to arrange things so that certain hitters will face certain pitchers. I told him he didn't know what he was talking about, because I had been watching him outmanage people in four leagues over 15 years. He told me I was crazy. I told him he was twice as crazy as I was. Finally one of his coaches stepped in and told us to stop shouting at each other. We were in the middle of an argument and didn't even realize it.
Our serious problems started in 1976. I was out in Oakland and a local reporter asked me who my favorite manager was. I told him it was former Oakland Manager Alvin Dark. Couldn't hurt, right?
Then, unfortunately, he asked me which manager I liked the least. Naturally I tried my best to avoid a direct answer. "WEAVER!" I shouted. "EARL WEAVER!" I would have spelled it for him, I would have written it down, I would even have hired skywriters.
The only problem I've ever had with newspapermen is that they write for newspapers. If they had just kept my opinions to themselves I never would have had any trouble. Weaver read my comments and didn't appreciate my sense of humor. He requested that the league bar me from Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, the State of Maryland and the entire East Coast. American League President Lee MacPhail suggested I keep my mouth locked.
I knew MacPhail was right and did my best to avoid any more problems with Weaver. My best lasted until spring training the following year. I was in Arizona and a reporter asked me a trick question: Which teams did I think would win the division races in the American League.
"It doesn't matter to me," I said. "Lee MacPhail signs my paychecks no matter who wins." When pressed further, I said I thought Oakland would win the West and I didn't care who won the East, "as long as it isn't Baltimore."
When I said it I didn't think it was a terrible thing to say. That was the way I felt as a fan, but I knew that my feelings would never affect and had never affected my judgment on the field. Anytime I missed a play it was simply because I missed it, not because I was partial to one team or one player.
In retrospect, it was a stupid thing to say. The league fined me $400 and ordered me to apologize publicly to Weaver and the Orioles. I agreed to apologize, but I didn't agree to pay the fine.